Earlier this week, a bill that would create the Office of Suicide Prevention within the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and increase suicide prevention measures with in the state unanimously passed both houses in Sacramento, leaving only Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature on the legislation before it’s made into law.
Assembly Bill 2112, authored by Assemblyman James Ramos (D-Highland), would create the largest expansion of suicide prevention in California’s history. In addition to adding a new department within the CDPH, AB 2112 would also provide suicide prevention information to state, regional, and local authorities, would consult with the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to implement new suicide prevention measures, and would concentrate efforts on the most at risk including youth, Native American youth, older adults, veterans, and those in the LGBT community.
AB 2112 would also be formed out of current personnel and resources, with additional funding coming from federal, state, and foundational grants with no extra taxpayer cost.
The Office of Suicide Prevention would have to report to the legislature on their progress in reducing suicide rates.
Assemblyman Ramos authored the bill to address suicide rates in California. While California does have less suicides than the national average, rates in specific groups have shown to be higher than average, such as among men, with the Northern region of California in particular showing a high suicide rate. The addition of COVID-19 this year has only added more suicide factors, adding to the risk and increasing the need for suicide prevention.
“I appreciate the strong bipartisan support this measure received. It was a moving testament to the need to reduce suicide rates in California,” Assemblyman Ramos said in a statement. “Recently the Centers for Disease Control reported responses to a June survey of 5,142 adults across the country. More than 40 percent reported that the disease created mental stress in their lives, and 11 percent said they had seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days. Those responses are deeply troubling and also begin to quantify what many mental health professionals suspected: the pandemic is increasing an existing crisis.”
“While suicide prevention efforts are already occurring across the state, we need coordination, clear messages about practices and vigilant monitoring of suicide data, especially for those with the highest risk of suicide: youth, and particularly Native American youth, older adults and LGTBQ people,” explained Uplift Family Services vice president Eva Terrazas.
Other groups praised it’s passage as well.
“We fought hard for this,” said Elias Wright, a suicide survivor and organizer of a regional suicide hotline in California. “Now there will be an entire department for this.”
“We had to convince Republicans the people wouldn’t pay another dime for this and Democrats that this wouldn’t discriminate against anyone who needs help, but it was worth it.”
AB 2112 now awaits Governor Newsom’s signature or veto, something he has until September 30th to decide on.
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